At a glance:
Builder: Orenstein & Koppel (Berlin, Germany)
Build date: 1934
Original company: Cómhlucht Siúicre Eireann, Teoranta
Withdrawal date: 1962
Final company: Cómhlucht Siúicre Eireann, Teoranta
Arrived at DCDR: 1987
Current status: Operational
Current owner: DCDR

CSET No. 1 was originally one of nine shunting locomotives built for Cómhlucht Siúicre Eireann, Teoranta (Irish Sugar Company, Ltd.) to work in their sugar beet factories. There were three factories, at Mallow, Thurles and Tuam (a fourth existed at Carlow, which utilised Belgian-built locomotives) and each received three locomotives. Confusingly, each factory also numbered their locomotives independently of each other, creating three No. 1s, three No. 2s, and three No. 3s!

Our own No. 1, works No. 12475, was assigned to Thurles originally, but the locomotives swapped factories regularly by hitching rides on the back of CIÉ goods trains and it finished its career in the Mallow factory. The locomotives could be distinguished from one another as the factories applied their numbers in different ways – our No. 1 has small brass numbers on the tanks like the other Thurles engines.

Manufactured in Berlin by renowned German locomotive builders Orenstein & Koppel, No. 1 rolled off the production line in 1934 as part of the first batch of CSET’s order – the order was split into two with six locomotives being built in 1934 and the remaining three in 1935. Due to a combination of hyperinflation in Germany and a surplus of beef in Ireland brought about by a trade war with Britain, the first batch were paid for by barter with two shiploads of cattle sufficing as payment.

No. 1’s appearance certainly doesn’t betray its continental origins, and is instantly recognisable in Ireland thanks to its funnel-shaped chimney, outside valve gear, sanding dome, and well tank. She is of 0-4-0T wheel arrangement with a top speed of around 32mph.

No. 1 spent most of its life in Thurles as a shunter, but also spent some time from the late 1950s as a static boiler used to power machinery within the refinery. After withdrawal by CSET in 1962, No. 1 languished around the Mallow factory until it was purchased for preservation the following year, along with Thurles No. 2 and Mallow No. 3. The three locomotives moved from place to place while their new owner, based in England, tried to raise the funds to get them across the water.

After many years stored in Dalkey, the locomotives were moved to Broadstone on the other side of Dublin, but unfortunately the cost of transport required the sacrifice of No. 2. No.’s 1 and 3 ended up at the site of Ballynahinch Junction in 1978, and it was at this point their owner realised they were the wrong gauge for an English railway! As such, they remained in situ until 1987, when the fledgling DCDR purchased the pair and moved them to Downpatrick.

After many years of restoration, including a boiler overhaul at Whitehead, No. 1 finally returned to traffic in 2012 and has been the stalwart of our passenger trains ever since. In a fitting touch of authenticity it currently wears an original O&K headlamp, which once belonged to Tuam No. 1, courtesy of our friends at the Cavan & Leitrim Railway. Our two unique O&K locomotives – thought to be the last ‘full-sized’ examples in the world – continue to keep alive an interesting aspect of our shared history that ended almost six decades ago.